Maryland – Montgomery County Ag Zoning Amendment

In February 2021, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed the Montgomery County Ag Reserve Zoning Amendment, which addresses limitations on the amount of materials farmers can source from off their farms for producing compost or mulch. This zoning amendment makes it easier for farmers in the county to mulch and compost by allowing more material to be sourced from off their farms.

Specifically, it amends Division 3.2 “Agricultural Uses” and Section 3.2.6 “Farming” of the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance, Chapter 59 of the Montgomery County Code to:

  • Confirm the production and manufacturing of mulch or compost as an accessory farm activity
  • Increase from 20% to 50% the amount of materials farmers can source from off-site to produce compost or mulch on their farms
“Section 3.2.6 Farming
Defined
Farming includes the following accessory uses:
1. The production and manufacturing of mulch or compost where a maximum of 50% of the materials used in accessory processing can come from off-site sources.”

 

To compost on-farm generated material like manures, farmers need a source of carbon-rich feedstocks such as leaves and wood chips. The previous 20% threshold was a barrier to farmers, limiting their composting ability. It was identified as such in the County’s April 2018 Strategic Plan to Advance Composting, Compost Use, and Food Scraps Diversion. That plan made a number of recommendations to support on-farm composting, one of which was updating the County’s zoning text. 

The proposed zoning text amendment is simple. The original 20% figure was set arbitrarily. The new 50% threshold is a more realistic figure, although it still artificially sets a limit on how much material farmers can source from off their farms.

 

Further Reading

Read our written testimony in support of the zoning amendment here. (December 2020)

Read BioCycle’s coverage of the zoning amendment here. (February 2021)

View 4-minute video featuring partnership among Compost Crew, ECO City Farms, and One Acre Farm to support on-farm composting here. (November 2020)

Check out our article on this zoning amendment and three other new Maryland laws that spur local composting.

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Original post from July 9, 2021

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Sophia Jones

Sophia Jones is an Intern with ILSR’s Composting for Community project. She is passionate about sustainability at all levels and has previously worked with the United Nations, the Government of Barbados, and Plant NOVA Natives on various sustainability-related projects.